The Almighty Buck

Stock Market Valuation Exceeds Its Components' Actual Value 334

Posted by Soulskill
from the of-wary-bulls dept.
An anonymous reader writes: James Tobin, a Nobel Prize-winning economist, developed a concept called "Q-value" — it's the ratio between two numbers: 1) the sum of all publicly-traded companies' stock valuations and 2) the value of all these companies' actual assets, if they were sold. Bloomberg reports that the continued strength of the stock market has now caused that ratio to go over 1 — in other words, the market values companies about 10% higher than the sum of their actual assets. The Q value is now at its highest point since the Dot-com bubble. Similar peaks in the past hundred years have all been quickly followed by crashes.

Now, that's not to say a crash is imminent — experts disagree on the Q-value's reliability. One said, "the ratio's doubling since 2009 to 1.10 is a symptom of companies diverting money from their businesses to the stock market, choosing buybacks over capital spending. Six years of zero-percent interest rates have similarly driven investors into riskier things like equities, elevating the paper value of assets over their tangible worth." Others point out that as the digital economy grows, a greater portion of publicly traded companies lack the tangible assets that were the hallmark of the manufacturing boom.
Math

John Urschel: The 300 Pound Mathematician Who Hits People For a Living 170

Posted by samzenpus
from the protect-your-head dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Kate Murphy writes at NYT about mathematician John Urschel whose latest contribution to the mathematical realm was a paper for the Journal of Computational Mathematics with the impressively esoteric title, "A Cascadic Multigrid Algorithm for Computing the Fiedler Vector of Graph Laplacians." "Believe me, I am aware that terms such as multigrid, Fiedler, and vector are not words that people use in their daily lives," says Urshel.

But as an offensive guard for the Baltimore Ravens, John Urschel regularly goes head to head with the top defensive players in the NFL and does his best to keep quarterback Joe Flacco out of harm's way. "I play because I love the game. I love hitting people," Urshel writes. "There's a rush you get when you go out on the field, lay everything on the line and physically dominate the player across from you. This is a feeling I'm (for lack of a better word) addicted to, and I'm hard-pressed to find anywhere else."

Urschel acknowledges that he has faced questions from NFL officials, journalists, fans and fellow mathematicians about why he runs the risk of potential brain injury from playing football when he has "a bright career ahead of me in mathematics" but doesn't feel able to quit. "When I go too long without physical contact I'm not a pleasant person to be around. This is why, every offseason, I train in kickboxing and wrestling in addition to my lifting, running and position-specific drill work."
Earth

Can Earthquakes Be Predicted Algorithmically? 94

Posted by timothy
from the hindsight-is-excellent dept.
An anonymous reader with this story about a practical application of big data analysis as applied to the trove of sensor readings taken by satellites and by ground-based senosrs. A company called Terra Seismic says that earthquakes can be predicted 20-30 days before they occur, by sifting data for thermal, ionic, and other abnormalities in areas where quakes are considered likely. Says the linked article: "The company claims to have successfully predicted a number of earthquakes. For example, on 5th of April 2013, the firm issued a forecast for Japan. On 12th April 2013, an earthquake hit the identified area and 33 people were injured. On 4th June 2013, the firm again made a prediction for an earthquake in North Italy. On 21st June, an earthquake hit the identified area. On 3rd March 2013, the firm issued a forecast for an earthquake in Iran. Again, after 35 days, an earthquake hit the identified area."
Stats

Poker Pros Win Against AI, But Experts Peg Match As Statistical Draw 65

Posted by timothy
from the at-this-rate-they-win-next-year dept.
hypnosec writes with some positive news for Skynet watchers, in that humans still have at least a slight lead against the AIs who might one day imprison us in energy-harvesting goo tanks, or at least beating us in Las Vegas. The two-day poker showdown involving four of the world's top (human) players and a Carnegie Mellon University AI program called Claudico saw the professionals win, after several days of heads-up no-limit Texas Hold'em. "Despite the win, the poker players' $732,713 collective lead over Claudico wasn't quite large enough to attain statistical significance, experts have said. This means that the results can't be accepted as scientifically reliable thereby indicating that the "Brains Vs. Artificial Intelligence" competition effectively ended in a statistical tie." On the other hand, the computers sure got over what looked like a rout by the humans.
Math

NFL Releases Deflategate Report 225

Posted by timothy
from the now-watch-your-language dept.
_xeno_ writes: You may remember back in February that Slashdot covered the NFL asking Columbia University for help investigating Deflategate, a scandal where the New England Patriots were caught deflating their footballs in order to make them easier to catch. The Patriots claimed this was simply a result of the weather, while their opponents disagreed. Well, it's been months, but we finally have our answer: the balls were, in fact, knowingly deflated by the Patriots (to no one's surprise). And while science can explain a little deflation, it cannot explain the amount of deflation seen during the game. Which isn't stopping Boston fans from attacking the science. The report stops short of certainty, though, concluding rather that deliberate underinflation was "more likely than not." Not everyone agrees that a conspiracy is necessary to account for the measured pressure readings.
Math

Mandelbrot Zooms Now Surpass the Scale of the Observable Universe 157

Posted by timothy
from the from-here-you-can-see-forever dept.
StartsWithABang writes You're used to real numbers: that is, numbers that can be expressed as a decimal, even if it's an arbitrarily long, non-repeating decimal. There are also complex numbers, which are numbers that have a real part and also an imaginary part. The imaginary part is just like the real part, but is also multiplied by i, or the square root of -1. It's a simple definition: the Mandelbrot set consists of every possible complex number, n, where the sequence n, n^2 + n, (n^2 + n)^2 + n, etc.—where each new term is the prior term, squared, plus n—does not go to either positive or negative infinity. The scale of zoom visualizations now goes well past the limits of the observable Universe, with no signs of loss of complexity at all.
Transportation

How Uber Surge Pricing Really Works 96

Posted by timothy
from the has-a-catchy-name-regardless dept.
minstrelmike writes with this analysis from Nicholas Diakopoulos of the Washington Post: At the core of Uber's wild success and market valuation of over $41 billion is its data and algorithmically fueled approach to matching supply and demand for cars. It's classic economics, supposedly....but is Uber's surge pricing algorithm really doing what they claim? Do surge prices really get more cars on the road?

My analysis suggests that rather than motivating a fresh supply of drivers, surge pricing instead re-distributes drivers already on the road.
Adds minstrelmike: The writer goes on to analyze 4 weeks of pricing info from 5 areas in D.C. and plotted prices versus wait times. "Price surging can work in any of three ways: by reducing demand for cars (less people want a car for a higher price), by creating new supply (providing an incentive for new drivers to hit the roads), or by shifting supply (drivers) to areas of higher demand."

It moves current drivers from one side of town to the other. It does not put new drivers on the road. It can't because the prices change every 3-5 minutes."
Math

Can High Intelligence Be a Burden Rather Than a Boon? 385

Posted by timothy
from the how-can-I-still-go-on? dept.
HughPickens.com writes David Robson has an interesting article at BBC on the relationship between high intelligence and happiness. "We tend to think of geniuses as being plagued by existential angst, frustration, and loneliness," writes Robson. Think of Virginia Woolf, Alan Turing, or Lisa Simpson – lone stars, isolated even as they burn their brightest." As Ernest Hemingway wrote: "Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know." The first steps to studying the question were taken in 1926 when psychologist Lewis Terman decided to identify and study a group of gifted children. Terman selected 1,500 pupils with an IQ of 140 or more – 80 of whom had IQs above 170. Together, they became known as the "Termites", and the highs and lows of their lives are still being studied to this day. "As you might expect, many of the Termites did achieve wealth and fame – most notably Jess Oppenheimer, the writer of the classic 1950s sitcom I Love Lucy. Indeed, by the time his series aired on CBS, the Termites' average salary was twice that of the average white-collar job. But not all the group met Terman's expectations – there were many who pursued more "humble" professions such as police officers, seafarers, and typists. For this reason, Terman concluded that "intellect and achievement are far from perfectly correlated". Nor did their smarts endow personal happiness. Over the course of their lives, levels of divorce, alcoholism and suicide were about the same as the national average." According to Robson, one possibility is that knowledge of your talents becomes something of a ball and chain. During the 1990s, the surviving Termites were asked to look back at the events in their 80-year lifespan. Rather than basking in their successes, many reported that they had been plagued by the sense that they had somehow failed to live up to their youthful expectations (PDF).
Education

LAUSD OKs Girls-Only STEM School, Plans Boys-Only English Language Arts School 599

Posted by Soulskill
from the who-needs-a-balanced-education dept.
theodp writes: Citing statistics that showed a whopping 46 more boys than girls passed the AP Computer Science Exam in 2011-12, the 640,000+ student Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) on Tuesday approved a waiver to enable the District to operate a single-gender, all-girls STEM School called the Girls Academic Leadership Academy (GALA). Students in GALA will follow a six year sequence of computer courses starting in middle school that will culminate in AP Computer Science Principles. "Fewer females take AP courses in math, science, or computer science, and they are not as successful as males in receiving passing scores of 3, 4 or 5," argued the General Waiver Request (PDF, 700+ pages). "An all girls environment is reasonably necessary for the school to improve the self-confidence of girls in their academic abilities, especially in STEM areas where an achievement gap currently exists. GALA's admissions shall also comply with AB 1266 to ensure male students who identify as female are admitted to the school." The school's CS-related Partners include the UCLA Exploring Computer Science Program, as well as Google-bankrolled Girls Who Code, Black Girls Code, and NCWIT. One of the reasons the all-girls STEM school reportedly got the green light is that its backers satisfied federal regulations requiring a "substantially equal school" for excluded male students by submitting a plan for a companion all-boys school that would emphasize English Language Arts, where they often fall short of girls' test scores, rather than GALA's focus on STEM. One suspects the no-fan-of-gender-restricted-public-schools ACLU may call BS on this maneuver.
Math

Magician Turned Professor Talks About the Math Behind Shuffling Cards 63

Posted by samzenpus
from the nothing-up-my-sleeve dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this story about magician and professor of mathematics and statistics at Stanford University Persi Diaconis. "Now a professor of mathematics and statistics at Stanford University, Diaconis has employed his intuition about cards, which he calls 'the poetry of magic,' in a wide range of settings. Once, for example, he helped decode messages passed between inmates at a California state prison by using small random 'shuffles' to gradually improve a decryption key. He has also analyzed Bose-Einstein condensation — in which a collection of ultra-cold atoms coalesces into a single 'superatom' — by envisioning the atoms as rows of cards moving around. This makes them 'friendly,' said Diaconis, whose speech still carries the inflections of his native New York City. 'We all have our own basic images that we translate things into, and for me cards were where I started.' In 1992, Diaconis famously proved — along with the mathematician Dave Bayer of Columbia University — that it takes about seven ordinary riffle shuffles to randomize a deck. Over the years, Diaconis and his students and colleagues have successfully analyzed the effectiveness of almost every type of shuffle people use in ordinary life."
Education

Cornell Study: For STEM Tenure Track, Women Twice As Likely To Be Hired As Men 517

Posted by timothy
from the whose-bias-is-called-bias dept.
_Sharp'r_ writes In the first "empirical study of sexism in faculty hiring using actual faculty members", Cornell University researchers found that when using identical qualifications, but changing the sex of the applicant, "women candidates are favored 2 to 1 over men for tenure-track positions in the science, technology, engineering and math fields." An anonymous reader links to the study itself.
Education

Cannabis Smoking Makes Students Less Likely To Pass University Courses 291

Posted by Soulskill
from the killing-your-buzz dept.
Bruce66423 writes: A large scale European study shows that students who were unable to buy cannabis legally were 5% more likely to pass their University courses. Below-average students with no legal access to pot were 7.6% more likely to pass their courses, and the effect was five times more pronounced when dealing with courses involving math. One of the study's authors said, "We think this newfound effect on productivity from a change in legal access to cannabis is not negligible and should be, at least in the short run, politically relevant for any societal drug legalization and prohibition decision-making. In the bigger picture, our findings also indicate that soft drug consumption behavior is affected by their legal accessibility, which has not been causally demonstrated before. ... Considering the massive impact on cognitive performance high levels of THC have, I think it is reasonable to at least inform young users much more on consequences of consuming such products as compared with that of having a beer or pure vodka."
Government

FTC Creates Office Dedicated To "Algorithmic Transparency" 75

Posted by timothy
from the from-the-government-and-here-to-help dept.
jfruh writes When Facebook's EdgeRank algorithm filters a meme you posted out of your friends' feed, you might find that annoying. When your bank's algorithm denies you a mortgage, that has a serious effect on your life. But both kinds of algorithms are generally opaque to customers and regulators, and the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection has set up an office dedicated to figuring out these algorithms affect our lives and intersect with the law. Perhaps they can start with how the IRS selects people to audit, and whether constantly shifting TSA policies make sense.
Wikipedia

If You Thought Studying History Was Bad, This Math Professor Is Making It Harder 75

Posted by Soulskill
from the when-reference-books-become-religion dept.
Raven writes: New research out of Streeling University aims to make planning for the future much easier. The work, led by professor Seldon, tries to set probabilistic values on future events, and then weigh those probabilities against each other to figure out what combination of events is most likely to happen. Describing it under the unlikely moniker "psychohistory," Seldon seems to think planning even 10,000 years into the future might be possible. (Seldon also seems to be a bit of a doomsayer, so this is likely exaggerated.) Nevertheless, it'll be another tool for government planners to consider when developing new colonies.
Encryption

NSA Worried About Recruitment, Post-Snowden 247

Posted by Soulskill
from the should-have-thought-of-that-before-being-jerks dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The NSA employs tens of thousands of people, and they're constantly recruiting more. They're looking for 1,600 new workers this year alone. Now that their reputation has taken a major hit with the revelations of whistleblower Edward Snowden, they aren't sure they'll be able to meet that goal. Not only that, but the NSA has to compete with other companies, and they Snowden leaks made many of them more competitive: "Ever since the Snowden leaks, cybersecurity has been hot in Silicon Valley. In part that's because the industry no longer trusts the government as much as it once did. Companies want to develop their own security, and they're willing to pay top dollar to get the same people the NSA is trying to recruit." If academia's relationship with the NSA continues to cool, the agency could find itself struggling within a few years.
Education

Why America's Obsession With STEM Education Is Dangerous 397

Posted by timothy
from the fallacy-of-the-excluded-middle dept.
HughPickens.com writes According to an op-ed by Fareed Zakaria in the Washington Post, if Americans are united in any conviction these days, it is that we urgently need to shift the country's education toward the teaching of specific, technical skills, expand STEM courses (science, technology, engineering and math) and deemphasize the humanities. "It is the only way, we are told, to ensure that Americans survive in an age defined by technology and shaped by global competition. The stakes could not be higher." But according to Zakaria the dismissal of broad-based learning, however, comes from a fundamental misreading of the facts — and puts America on a dangerously narrow path for the future.

As Steve Jobs once explained "it's in Apple's DNA that technology alone is not enough — that it's technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our hearts sing." Zakaria says that no matter how strong your math and science skills are, you still need to know how to learn, think and even write and cites Jeff Bezos' insistence that writing a memo that makes sense is an even more important skill to master. "Full sentences are harder to write," says Bezos. "They have verbs. The paragraphs have topic sentences. There is no way to write a six-page, narratively structured memo and not have clear thinking." "This doesn't in any way detract from the need for training in technology," concludes Zakaria, "but it does suggest that as we work with computers (which is really the future of all work), the most valuable skills will be the ones that are uniquely human, that computers cannot quite figure out — yet. And for those jobs, and that life, you could not do better than to follow your passion, engage with a breadth of material in both science and the humanities, and perhaps above all, study the human condition."
United States

Obama To Announce $240M In New Pledges For STEM Education 149

Posted by samzenpus
from the throw-some-money-at-it dept.
An anonymous reader sends word that President Obama is expected to announce more that $240 million in pledges to boost STEM educations at the White House Science Fair today. "President Barack Obama is highlighting private-sector efforts to encourage more students from underrepresented groups to pursue education in science, technology, engineering and math. At the White House Science Fair on Monday, Obama will announce more than $240 million in pledges to boost the study of those fields, known as STEM. This year's fair is focused on diversity. Obama will say the new commitments have brought total financial and material support for these programs to $1 billion. The pledges the president is announcing include a $150 million philanthropic effort to encourage promising early-career scientists to stay on track and a $90 million campaign to expand STEM opportunities to underrepresented youth, such as minorities and girls."
Education

Arkansas Is Now the First State To Require That High Schools Teach Coding 211

Posted by timothy
from the unexpected-locale dept.
SternisheFan writes Arkansas will be implementing a new law that requires public high schools to offer classes in computer science starting in the 2015-16 school year. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who signed the bill, believes it will provide "a workforce that's sure to attract businesses and jobs" to the state. $5 million of the governor's proposed budget will go towards this new program. For the districts incapable of of administering these classes due to lack of space or qualified teachers, the law has provisions for online courses to be offered through Virtual Arkansas. Although students will not be required to take computer science classes, the governor's goal is to give students the opportunity if they "want to take it." Presently, only one in 10 schools nationwide offer computer science classes. Not only will Arkansas teach these classes in every public high school and charter school serving upper grades, the courses will count towards the state's math graduation requirement as a further incentive for students. Training programs for teacher preparation will be available, but with the majority of the infrastructure already primed, the execution of this new law should hopefully be painless and seamless.
Math

Pi Day Extraordinaire 107

Posted by samzenpus
from the pecan-apple-or-cherry? dept.
First time accepted submitter DrTJ writes Today is Pi day. This year is a bit more extraordinary as it is 3/14/15 (in American date format). To celebrate, USA Today has posted a number of videos of kids reciting Pi, one of them to 8,784 digits. The Washington Post highlights the story of a couple who decided to make it their special day. "Donahue, 33, a Legal Aid attorney, fell for Karmel’s geeky side as soon as they met. On a beach vacation with her friends in 2012, a psychic told her, 'You are about to meet your soulmate.' Three days later, she walked into Kostume Karaoke night at Solly’s Tavern along the U Street corridor and saw a man onstage croaking out the Backstreet Boys’s 'I Want It That Way.' By the end of the night, he would be serenading her with Cake’s 'The Distance' — the song the DJ will play when they cut the pie."